I know that there are many of my international readers that are interested in the American history of the Civil War of the 19th century.
For years there has been this idealistic view that the South was engaged in some sort of ‘noble cause’…that view in my opinion is a romantic non-realistic view to that era of American history….
The Lost Cause was a historical ideology and a social movement created by ex-Confederates that characterized the Confederate experience and defined its value for new generations. By the twentieth century, the Lost Cause became enshrined as part of the national story of slavery and the American Civil War era, and it evolved through that century’s most important revolutions. It was never just about the Civil War, but about slavery, Reconstruction, southern race relations, the place of the South in national life, and Americans’ self-identity. Today, the Lost Cause’s historical and cultural claims have been rejected by historians and museum professionals as a narrow distortion of history at best and a lie at worst, but many of its cultural tropes and political assumptions occasionally thrive, not only in the American South, but across the country.
There are five myths surrounding this bastardization of American history…..thanks to the Battlefield Trust……
The first and most important myth is that secession, not slavery, was the cause of the war. Southern states seceded to protect their rights, their homes, and to throw off the shackles of a tyrannical government. To the proponents of the Lost Cause, secession was constitutional, and the Confederacy was the natural heir to the American Revolution. Because secession was constitutional, all those who fought for the Confederacy were not traitors. Northerners, specifically Northern abolitionists, caused the war with their fiery rhetoric and agitating, even though slavery was on its way to gradually dying a natural death. They also argued secession was a way to preserve the Southern agrarian way of life in the face of encroaching Northern industrialism.
Second, slavery was portrayed as a positive good; enslaved people, who were submissive, happy, and faithful to their masters, were better off in the system of chattel slavery which offered the slaves protection. Confederate Vice President Alexander H. Stephens declared in 1861 “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” Following the end of the war, these formerly enslaved people were now said to be unprepared for freedom, which was an argument against Reconstruction and the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments of the Constitution.
The third tenet states that the Confederacy was only defeated because of the Northern states’ numerical advantage in both men and resources. The Confederate Army was less defeated than overwhelmed, as their lesser resources. Former Confederate officer Jubal A. Early justified the Southern defeat by stating that the North “finally outproduced that exhaustion of our army and resources, and that accumulation of numbers on the other side which wrought our final disaster.” Early went on to say that the South “had been gradually worn down by combined agencies of numbers, steam-power, railroads, mechanism, and all the resources of physical science.” The lack of southern manufacturing and the outnumbered population doomed it to failure from the start. Thus, the “Lost Cause.”
Fourth, Confederate soldiers are portrayed as heroic, gallant, and saintly. Even after the surrender, they retained their honor. At one reunion oration, Confederate General Thomas R. R. Cobb, who was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg, was compared to “Joshua in his courage,…St. Paul in the logic of his eloquence and [St.] Stephen in the triumph of his martyrdom.”
Fifth, Robert E. Lee emerged as the most sanctified figure in Lost Cause lore, especially after his death in 1870. Lee himself became a symbol for the Lost Cause, and a “Cult of Lee” revered the Virginian as the ultimate Christian soldier who took up arms for his state. He was even called the second Washington. Lee was the most successful of all Confederate Army commanders, and after the war, Jubal Early and many former Southern officers placed Lee upon a pedestal—so much so that historian Thomas L. Connelly dubbed Lee “The Marble Man.” Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson became a saintly martyr, wounded by his men while defending the Lost Cause. Even the office building where Jackson died bore the name “The Stonewall Jackson Shrine” for decades. On the other hand, James Longstreet became a villain to Lee and Jackson’s heroes, blamed for the loss at Gettysburg and vilified for his newfound Republican affiliation and the temerity to question Lee’s wartime decisions. Even former Confederate President Jefferson Davis became a reverential figure, seen as the personification of states’ rights.
None of this is true….it is a fanciful revision of American history.
The whole “lost cause’ myth was an excuse and a justification for the war…..
The Lost Cause grew out of this postbellum context and eulogised the Confederate war effort as having been a just and heroic one – a struggle to protect “states’ rights” in the face of overwhelming Northern aggression. In presenting the conflict in this way, the Lost Cause both obscured and denied the principal role of slavery in leading to the outbreak of war.
Part ideology, part social movement, the Lost Cause of the Confederacy has promoted an ahistorical interpretation of the American Civil War.
Here are 10 key facts about the Lost Cause of the Confederacy:
There was nothing romantic or noble about this conflict.
Today we have a ‘new’ Lost Cause….that of a ‘stolen’ election…..
Lies are a denomination of power. The bigger the lie, the more power it represents. Right now in this country, we are being treated daily to the Big Lie that Donald Trump was the true winner of the presidential election of 2020, and the only reason he’s not in the White House right now is because the election was stolen from him.
You may have noticed that the people pushing the Big Lie today are very good at it. This is because many of them have been pushing an even bigger Big Lie for most of their lives: the lie of the Lost Cause, that the Civil War wasn’t really fought over the disgraceful secession of the Southern states and slavery, it was instead a noble cause fought for the “honor” of the South, and that slavery itself wasn’t bad or immoral, because enslaved people were happy workers living much better lives than they would have lived where they came from in Africa.
Yet more revisionist history to be taught to our children…..and that will help feed the BS of lies and revision for a generation or more.
More thoughts on the BS of the ‘Lost Cause’….
I Read, I Write, You Know
“lego ergo scribo”